LAS VEGAS — Lamarr Mitchell sat in the Sam Boyd Stadium stands on Nov. 12, 2016, and marveled at the command, leadership, and throwing ability of Wyoming sophomore quarterback Josh Allen.
Darkness arrived early for the mid-afternoon start, but both teams lit up the night and scoreboard, and UNLV defeated the Cowboys, 69-66, in three overtimes.
On the last play of regulation, Allen threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Gentry, and the extra-point kick forced the extra frames. Mitchell, the 53-year-old director of trading at BetMGM Sportsbook, remembers the electric entertainment of that game.
“I was thinking that this guy could potentially be a No. 1 draft pick,” Mitchell told Gaming Today. “Watching him throw against UNLV’s defensive backs, I thought, ‘This guy is phenomenal.’”
Allen went a mediocre 14-for-31 that day, but his length was lethal, accruing 334 aerial yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions.
“You could see the talent level there,” Mitchell says, “and it’s gone over to the next level. I’m impressed, immensely, with the Buffalo team around him, but he drives that team.”
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Allen played one more season at Wyoming, and he was Buffalo’s top pick, seventh overall, in the 2018 draft.
The fifth-year pro is 43-22 as an NFL starter, and his Bills play at Kansas City on Sunday afternoon in one of the league’s two marquee tilts, with Dallas-Philadelphia also hogging the main bill.
Buffalo’s past two playoff appearances have both ended against the Chiefs inside Arrowhead Stadium, a 38-24 loss in the AFC title game in January 2021 and that 42-36 epic overtime divisional thriller of a defeat nine months ago.
In the two games, Allen went 55-for-85 for 616 yards, six TDs, and one pick. Patrick Mahomes, however, was just a bit better for Kansas City, going 62-for-86, for 703 yards, six TDs, and no interceptions.
Allen leads the league with 1,651 passing yards and a 330 yard per game, average, while the 6-foot-3 Mahomes is atop the NFL with 15 passing TDs. Buffalo is the league’s top passing offense, and it’s also No. 2 in run defense and No. 4 against the pass.
Buffalo Bills (4-1, 3-1-1 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-1, 2-3 ATS)
It’s a testament to Allen’s skills, and all that talent, that the Bills were bet up to 3-point favorites — at an even price — at BetMGM, although the oddsboard is showing Buffalo -2.5 as of Friday morning (Odds and prices below are fluid and subject to change).
Some sharp BetMGM action has been registered elsewhere on the NFL slate. But Mitchell agrees that this one at Arrowhead will attract many eyeballs — and a lot of weekend wagering action — to flat screens from coast to coast.
NFL · Sun (10/16) @ 4:25pm ET
|Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri|
A preview of another AFC championship bout?
“Absolutely,” Mitchell says. “The way they’re playing, and you saw what happened last season” in that memorable postseason affair in January. “It definitely looks like these two are the crème da la crème of the AFC.”
Kansas City a dog in its own yard?
“It is weird,” Mitchell says, “to see the Chiefs getting three at home.”
Since 2018, when Mahomes became its starter, KC is 1-2 straight up and against the spread in three home games as an underdog.
After Carolina canned coach Matt Ruhle, the rumors of a fire sale had Christian McCaffrey possibly being traded to the Bills. That, according to Mitchell, would define the rich getting richer.
Dallas Cowboys (4-1, 4-1 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-0, 3-2 ATS)
NFL · Sun (10/16) @ 8:20pm ET
|Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
Mitchell was born in San Diego, but he was raised in Vegas and has never left. In grade school, he adopted the Cowboys. Two years ago, though, he quit the roller-coaster existence of rooting for any sports team.
He reserves those cheers for his 16-year-old daughter Keelie’s volleyball games. And, of course, for his book’s bottom line during football weekends.
And this one will matter, because “a decent-sized six-figure wager” on the Eagles, at -4.5, has been part of a swell of smart activity on Philly.
“One of our bigger players,” Mitchell says. “A sharp player and great casino players, phenomenal casino players, are the ones who have bet this game so far. ALL on the Eagles. It’ll be a tough task for the Cowboys.”
Dak Prescott threw at Wednesday’s practice for the first time since undergoing surgery on that thumb, but coach Mike McCarthy will stick with Cooper Rush against the Eagles.
Which isn’t so bad. Against the Rams last Sunday, the 28-year-old Rush improved to 5-0 as an NFL starter. Philly averages 27 points, fifth-best in the league. Dallas allows a third-best 14.4 points, which improves to 13 on the road.
“One thing Rush has done, he hasn’t had any turnovers,” Mitchell says. “His stats against the Rams were not great, but he had no turnovers. Obviously, coaches preach that if you win the turnover battle, most of the time you’ll win the game.”
New York Jets (3-2, 3-2 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (3-2, 2-3 ATS)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Friday BetMGM Line: Packers -7.5, Total 45
The Packers possess the league’s second-best pass defense, at a paltry 177 yards per game. At Lambeau, though, they appear to have been amazing, allowing only 76 aerial yards a game.
That does, however, factor in a Justin Fields game. Still, they’re the league’s sole home squad allowing only double-digit yardage through the air.
Zach Wilson figures to test those defensive backs and safeties. In two games, both victories, he’s thrown for 462 yards, with a TD and a pick. Reserve QB Joe Flacco averaged 300 yards in three games, with five TDs and three interceptions.
The Jets defend the pass (206 yards per game, 10th in the NFL) better than the run (114, 16th), so that could fall in line with the Packers’ penchant to control games with tailbacks Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, averaging a combined 127 yards.
Still, giving a TD looks like the epitome of a public team.
“Yes, the Packers are a hugely public team,” Mitchell says. “I think the seven is the Lambeau-Packers-Rodgers [effect]. The way the Jets played against Miami, they’re gonna scrap. This number might be a little high, in that regard.”
In New Jersey last Sunday, in his 15th NFL start, Wilson went 14-for-21 for 210 yards, no picks or TDS, and a short scoring run in a 40-17 triumph over the Dolphins. That was at home, though, against a third-string quarterback.
At Green Bay versus Rodgers, at least on paper, it seems to be a different deal. But the Packers struggled, winning at home in overtime, to beat New England rookie QB Bailey Zappe.
“Outside of that one game against Chicago,” Mitchell says, “the Packers haven’t shown that they’ll light people up, offensively.”
The Jets are 3-2 lifetime in Green Bay.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2, 2-3 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4, 1-3-1 ATS)
Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Friday BetMGM Line: Bucs -8.5, Total 45
A raft of injuries and Tom Brady’s ongoing personal drama versus the Steelers in a flat spin, whose coach has never suffered a losing campaign?
The NFL and its constant soap operas.
This had a look-ahead figure of 10.5 at BetMGM, Mitchell says, and Steelers respect has budged that into single digits. As a two-TD dog for the first time since the 1970 merger, the Steelers were embarrassed, 38-3, in Buffalo last weekend.
It isn’t certain whether Pittsburgh boss Mike Tomlin will turn to Mitch Trubisky or keep rookie Kenny Pickett at quarterback. It might not matter, as Mitchell saw this team’s fortunes fade when JJ Watt was lost to a season-ending injury.
Tomlin, 50, has coached the Steelers since 2007, and his worst years were three 8-8 campaigns. They capped his second season, of 2008, with a Lombardi Trophy.
“This could be his first losing season,” Mitchell says. “But you never know with Brady. His offense hasn’t proven anything, and their defense has basically won their games. That 8.5 might be a number the public might want to get.”
More from Vegas: Bucs, Bengals, Panthers, Jets Draw Early Action
Minnesota Vikings (4-1, 1-4 ATS) at Miami Dolphins (3-2, 3-2)
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Friday BetMGM Line: Vikings -3.5, Total 46
Minnesota’s first two games finished Under, but its past three have gone Over their totals, continuing a stellar trend. Since 2018, Vikings’ Overs have hit at a 56.3-percent rate, bettered by only Tampa Bay (56.6 percent) in that span.
Mitchell likes how new Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has operated, with QB Kurt Cousins, receiver Justin Jefferson (the league leader with 109 reception yards per game), and a defense that excels at home. He calls Minnesota “a live play” to win the NFC North.
Miami, though, might have a rough time tallying points in its home. It had landed an identity, with QB Tua Tagovailoa, but concussions have sidelined him and backup Teddy Bridgewater. Now in the pocket for the Dolphins, Skylar Thompson.
The former Kansas State Wildcat played his first NFL game last week, going in for Bridgewater and completing 19 of 33 attempts, for 166 yards and one interception in that wipeout defeat to the Jets.
“I’m not really sure” about Thompson, Mitchell says. “Tua’s arm strength, with [receiver] Tyreek Hill, that accuracy we saw the first few weeks. He got the ball out quickly. A dynamic offense.
“We have very little activity on this game. No sharp play, just basic, small play right now.”
Baltimore Ravens (3-2, 2-2-1 ATS) at New York Giants (4-1, 4-1 ATS)
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Friday BetMGM Line: Ravens -6, Total 45
Tailback Saquon Barkley has an NFL-best 676 rushing yards and 13 yards per touch, and QB Daniel Jones has done enough, in Mitchell’s view, to get the Giants to 4-1.
“For me, though, I’m still not sold on them,” he says. “As we’ve seen from the Giants in the past few years, they start out quickly. But, as they say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You want to see what happens later.
“Injuries take hold of the progression and development of the quarterback. And at running back, we’ve seen Barkely get hurt the past couple of years.”
It might be difficult to fathom, because Baltimore has had such a stingy, clamp-down secondary in past seasons, but the Ravens now have the worst pass defense, allowing 290 yards a game, in the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers (3-2, 3-2 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3, 5-0 ATS)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Friday BetMGM Line: Niners -5.5, Total 44.5
There’s no greater NFL oddity than seeing a losing team with the league’s lone undefeated record against the number.
Mitchell reports that he was in BetMGM’s main trading room, at Mandalay Bay, last Sunday when he and others were chatting about just that topic as the Falcons were in the process of covering, again, in Tampa.
A horrible roughing-the-passer penalty against Atlanta allowed Brady to retain possession, and kill the clock, otherwise the Falcons would have had a chance to win the game outright.
“There was still a lot of time left, they seemed to be able to move the ball, and Tampa was not doing much,” Mitchell says. “It’s a shame what happened. The Falcons did have a shot to win that game.”
The Niners have the league’s most-efficient defense, allowing only 0.196 points per play. Away from home, that slips to 0.236, fourth-best in the NFL. However, San Francisco has won only one of its previous seven regular-season visits to Atlanta.
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Denver Broncos (2-3, 1-4 ATS) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-2, 4-1 ATS)
SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Friday’s BetMGM Line: Chargers -4.5, Total 45.5
The most intriguing game of the weekend, once again, just might be the weekend capper on Monday evening. Teasers and parlays, of course, always make this a pivotal result for the books’ bottom lines.
But there’s more to this one, at least at BetMGM. A universal opener of around 6 has been knocked down, with action on the Broncos.
“We’ve had some sharp play on the Broncos +5.5,” Mitchell says. “Obviously, the sharp players are looking at this like, ‘Hey, it is a divisional game. This is too much for these two teams.’ Even though the Broncos haven’t scored, 5.5 [was] a little too much.”
“I work with a guy who is a Chargers fan, and he’s always complaining why the Chargers lost. They always seem to find a way to lose.”
Denver yields an NFL-low 176.6 passing yards per game, so Chargers QB Justin Herbert might face some challenges.
He’s fifth in the league with a 100.8 QB Rating and in the top third with 7.4 yards per pass. In four career games against the Broncos, Herbert is 2-2, 100-for-151 for 1,071 yards, eight TDs and four picks.